24 BANDA CHILDREN ACCOMPANIED BY THE HEAD’S OF BOYS AND GIRLS GAMES TRAINED AT THE HIGH ALTITUDE TRAINING CENTRE (2400M/7900FT) LOCATED IN ITEN, KENYA. TAKING RECREATIONAL RUNNERS KEEN TO IMPROVE, TO TALENTED SPORTS BOYS AND GIRLS, THE BANDA PUPILS TRAINED WITH CHAMPIONS.
Following a 40-minute flight from Nairobi The Banda High Altitude Training team were met and driven to the camp. A number of elite athletes staying at the camp included a 2:06 marathoner, a 10km runner (who raced Mo Farrah in Rio) and a number of Kenyan Internationals and various amateurs who all race sub 2:40 for 42km. What an environment!
After lunch the children prepared themselves for their first altitude training session at the all weather tartan track completing 6 x 400m speed endurance intervals. The afternoon swimming training provided for a warm-up followed by a brief hypoxia session - focusing on working with limited oxygen, varying the number of strokes between breaths. All worked hard and completed the prescribed number of 100m sets.
Set in the most beautiful surroundings, beneath a large cliff face and overlooking the Great Rift Valley, the children were now amongst 75 athletes from all over the world - all coming to the ‘Mecca’ of distance running in the search of precious seconds, minutes and medals! After a thorough warm-up, the children ran 800m, 1200m and 800m with two-minute rest intervals. Every time a professional ran past, the children desperately tried to keep pace, only to be left in awe of their finesse and immense speed.
At the track, the children received motivational talks from Hugo van den Broek (a European Championship medal winning marathoner), Paul Chelimo (USA Olympic 5km Silver Medalist at Rio) and Brother Colm (the legendary Irish coach of David Rudisha).
The afternoon session children included: running for 2 times 30, 60, 90 and 120-second intervals with recovery periods. Thorough stretching and relaxation periods were always provided. The team then joined the adults' 'core training' session completing the ab-tastic 45minute session involving well over 500x crunch variations! After the session the ‘pro’ athletes were extremely complimentary including: Lawrence Cherono (the winner of the 2016 Prague Marathon - 2hr 07mins),Aras Kaya (a Turkish Olympian and winner of the 2016 European Cross-Country Championships) and another 800m Kenyan International medalist.
The Banda children’s last full day began with yoga (the previous morning’s standard ritual - to stretch muscles, awaken their bodies and focus their minds. All drank two full glasses of water before breakfast to support hydration.
Warm from the brisk walk to the tartan track the team broke into a slow jog for the remainder of the 2km. Today's session would focus on ‘speed play’ or ‘Fartlek’ (Swedish word), as the elite athletes know it with the children completing 2.4km sessions varying their running speed between slow, steady and fast pace.
At the end of the session, the children noticed male elite athletes arriving in ‘flashy kit.’ Subsequently they chatted to their coach (John Lettie - Commonwealth Bronze, 400m, '06) and met Ronald Kwemoi, the U18 1500m World Record Holder (3mins 24seconds).
Invited to join in with their warm up laps our children jogged behind the athletes and left well behind…and in awe, when the elite athletes changed pace. "Wow, wewe ni mbio!” exclaimed Kinna to an athlete as he stretched.
Later in the gym, the children were split into boys and girls and worked around all of the different pieces of apparatus. The most popular pieces of equipment were the Swiss balls, the skipping ropes, the cross-trainers and rowing machines.
Into the swimming pool for a quick hypoxia session; it also served the purpose of loosening the muscles following the morning's track work. The children chose to complete 6, 8, or 10 lengths. Each length was 25m, with their chosen stroke and as few breaths as possible. (Akira was the most successful recording one breath on one length!).
As the old saying goes: "If it ain't raining, it ain't training!” Experiencing a deluge of rain when our children were sprinting up and jogging back (fives times) over a choice of 30m, 40m and 50m.
So well behaved and trying their hardest in everything it was a humbling experience for the first High Altitude Training team from The Banda. They have formed tight bonds and have definitely earned their place in the 'Home of Champions.' Everyone at The Banda is immensely proud of them.
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